RLA PEARL: A Year in Review

by | Aug 6, 2018 | Blog post

It has been a year since we launched the RLA Private renting Evidence, Analysis & Research Lab (RLA PEARL). In this short time, we have achieved a lot, especially at a time when the political focus on the private rented sector is intensifying. In this blog post, we review our activities and successes over the past year.

There has been a lack of evidence and research on the private rented sector and we set up PEARL to address this. We research the social, political, and economic issues affecting the private rented sector and then we use these findings to ensure that policy-makers have the evidence needed to inform the future direction of policies. In our first year, we have achieved significant successes with our research driving change from improving regulations to the reform of how universal credit is implemented.

The RLA has been undertaking and commissioning research before we developed PEARL, two years ago we set up our State of the Private Rented Sector (PRS) quarterly surveys, and we have continued this as one of our core activities. This research programme provides us with a unique opportunity to develop an understanding landlord attitudes, experiences and concerns, and on the back of the findings, the ability for us to identify policies that could help make renting better for all. We have shared our results widely through in-depth reports and short briefing papers to influence MPs, Peers and Civil Servants in their policy-making, but also the media to develop the public understanding of the issues in the private rented sector.

Our research has opened doors to policy-makers across the UK, and we have held meetings with high-profile Peers, MPs and civil servants to discuss the findings of our research, such as meetings with DWP over Universal Credit and the Treasury over taxation reform. Our research findings were used by the RLA’s Senior Policy Officer, Natalie Williamson, in the evidence provided to the Work & Pensions Select Committee on Universal Credit and Housing. All of these meetings with the DWP and the evidence presented to the Select Committee has enabled significant changes to be made to the roll-out of Universal Credit over the last few months. Most recently, our research has been cited extensively by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government in their consultation document on the Barriers to Longer Term Tenancies in the Private Rented Sector. However, our research is not just influencing policy-makers, we have been actively sharing our research with academics and stakeholders across the UK and internationally.

Last October we were invited by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to Belfast to present our research findings on welfare reform at their quarterly Insight events. We have then recently presented updated research on Universal Credit at the Housing Studies Association Annual Conference 2018. This was an excellent opportunity to gain feedback from academics on our research, but to also help academics understand the issues landlords face and how policy changes are affecting them. And, it’s not just academics and policy-makers we have been talking to, over the past year, we have been speaking at landlord conferences and events from London to Liverpool, and also at the RLA’s Future Renting conferences in Cardiff and Manchester. Not only have these events allowed us to share our findings and encourage debate on the future of the sector with landlords, but through conversations with a wide range of landlords, we have been able to develop new insights into their experiences in this ever-changing sector.

The growth in Short-Term Lettings

One of our most high-profile research activities over the past year has been to research the ever-growing trend of short-term lets and Airbnb. In the report that we launched last August, we demonstrated that 1-in-3 landlords that were moving to this market were doing so because of the Government’s changes to taxation, meaning there is an incentive to offer residential properties as short-term holidays lets over longer-term homes. We have also found that there has been a 259% increase in the number of Airbnb listings in Cardiff last year and that nearly 1-in-5 homes to rent in Cardiff are likely to be moving to holiday-let websites.

We have experienced significant media coverage on this research programme, from the BBC to The Times, and political coverage in both the House of Commons and Lords but also mentioned by the Mayor of London at Mayoral Questions. Our work on this area has received international acclaim, with academics from Canada and Japan getting in touch to find out more about the issues and challenges created by this new phenomena. Building upon this, we have recently returned from the European Network of Housing Researchers (ENHR) Annual Conference in Uppsala in Sweden, where we presented an academic paper on how the short-term market has changed in London over the past four years. All of this demonstrates the credibility and the respect our work is graining amongst national and international audiences.

A look to the future

Over the past year we have undertaken a higher number of research activities and commissioned a wide range of academic projects, and we have achieved significant successes already. There has been an excellent media and political impact, however, we can not get complacent, and we will continue to undertake and commission high-quality research that makes an impact. For the future, we will be continuing to focus on the effect of welfare reform, taxation reform, and the growth of short-term lettings on the supply of privately rented homes.

There are significant opportunities for the sector to evolve and in the next coming months, we will be launching our first review of the PRS. We anticipate that the recommendations from this review will set out a positive vision for a modern private rented sector of the future that works for both landlords and tenants.

Over this week we will be reviewing some of our different research streams, exploring the research findings so far, the impact on policy already and discuss what is needed to to be changed to make the sector better. We encourage everyone to get involved and debate the future of the PRS, so do get involved, either in the comments below or on Twitter using the #PEARLweek tag. We also have some new findings to share this week, so please do stay tuned for more.

Have a look at our RLA PEARL: A Year in Review 2018 Impact Infographic below:

RLA PEARL A Year in Review 2018